Will Second be First?

How fast or how slow US immigrant visas are issued depends on constant and variables: the number of visas allocated worldwide is a constant, the number of visa applicants varies based on the push (political and economic conditions from source countries) and pull factors (US economy and national mood).

In recent years, migration from Mexico not just slowed down, but almost reversed. Mesico’s economy improved. The Pew Hispanic Center report on CNN (April 26, 2012) that  “Mexican-born population in the United States decreased from 12.6 million in 2007 to 12 million in 2011. This appears to be the first sustained decline in the number of Mexican immigrants since the Great Depression, and it is entirely because of a reduction in illegal immigration -- more going home and fewer coming.”

The fundamental reason?  

US economy collapsed and recession set in.  First to go was housing, depriving entry-level construction workers of employment. The political fall out followed with Arizona passing the most restrictive immigration laws principal of which was arresting a person who “looks like an immigrant.”
The winter of discontent worldwide crept in as the US financial crisis spread globally. There had been few moments of respite as rays of legislative hope come from Democratic members of Congress. In particular, where Congress failed to enact a comprehensive immigration reform law, the Executive branch acted on its own.

Then in July last year, as immigration reform bills were hot topics going into the US local elections, the F2A category (spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents or green card holders) became current in the following months – August and September.

What happens now?

Immigration bills are staple diets of the 2014-2015 Congressional menu.

In his State of the Union Address on January 28, 2014, US President Barack Obama said he would work with Congress to get his priority programs going, but he is also ready to go it alone if the legislature remains divided or recalcitrant.

One program that has been dogging President Obama is comprehensive immigration reform. This year seems to be a good year to get immigration reform going.  President Obama “got a long ovation when he urged Republicans in the House to join Democrats in passing a Senate plan that got bipartisan support.”

To the Republicans, backing immigration reform is backing away from being seen as an anti-immigrant party The Republicans know that their support among Hispanic has weakened further so they are “working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform by first securing our borders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest, and hardest working from around the world."

At the very least the GOP approach – albeit limited – could result in a “comprehensive Senate measure that includes a path to legal status for immigrants living illegally in the country.”

Executive Initiates As Congress Hesitates

Obama’s record of going it alone has recent historical basis.  Miffed by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives that thwart comprehensive immigration reform (even as a Democrat-led Senate supports him) the White House through the Department of Homeland Security announced on June 15, 2012, that “effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings.”

This deportation or removal relief takes the rug away from the elusive legal pathway to residency and citizenship that the Republicans have consistently opposed.

Miracle at 1600 Pennsylvania Street

A miracle waiting to happen from the White House - at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -  is President Obama directing the Department of Homeland Security and the Attorney General to ease up on its opposition to the Child Status Protection Act regarding “retention of  priority date.”  While the case is now before the US Supreme Court, the Obama Administration could show its mettle by allowing families to be reunited after immigration service’s inefficiency in processing petitions.

Second, the DHS may favorably consider humanitarian requests where a petitioner dies or where the visa beneficiary (eligible for a waiver under current laws) need to establish admissibility after having committed immigration violations such as having overstayed in the US.

On the Nonimmigrant Visa front, the DHS may – by regulations – allow international students to work 20 hours a week off-campus while school is in regular session and 40 hours during breaks just as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and UK provide -with certain exceptions.

Unlike their counterparts in the Commonwealth Nations, international students are generally not allowed to work for the first year of their studies in the US except under limited on-campus employment.  The two main programs that foreign students may work in the US is through programs that offer Curriculum Practical Training (CPT - where work is part of the curriculum) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completion of course or minimum one year of academic studies.

Priority Dates

So to the question when would Second be First – in the Family-sponsored categories?  It should not be long especially in the F2A category because this category has the least number of visa applicants waiting for their priority date to be current. That is on the constant side.  On the variable component, the US economy is gaining strength although not fast enough, Europe is also beginning to get out of an EU-wide economic and member nation bail-out slump.  China’s ascent to world power class engendered entrepreneurs and social elites (even including entrenched communist party members and officials) who are stashing China-sourced wealth to the US, stacking up before a political crackdown falls.

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